"Like turkey?" I joked to my sister-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner, as I noticed her plate piled high with white meat and a little bit of what looked like cooked veggies she brought from home. "I'm on the Ideal Protein Diet. I've lost 20 pounds, and I've got my eye on the prize," she said. The diet she went on to explain intrigued me, because I saw the results right before my eyes.
What Is It?
The Ideal Protein Weight Loss Method was medically developed two decades ago by Dr. Tran Tien Chanh to help people lose fat without losing muscle mass. It's a high-protein, low-carb diet, but unlike other low-carb programs, it's not just about eating high protein, it's about eating the right protein. This diet also severely restricts sugar intake (simple and complex) until your weight-loss goal is reached. This ensures that your glycogen (carbohydrate) reserves are completely depleted, which forces your body to dip into your fat reserves to lose weight. What's also different about this diet, and what makes it so successful, is that it teaches followers to read labels, make healthy choices, and shows what to do to maintain weight once the goal is reached.
What Does the Diet Entail?
Like Weight Watchers, there are clinics across the Unites States and Canada to offer one-on-one coaching, education, and Ideal Protein products. There are four phases to the program:
Phase 1 (followed strictly until weight-loss goals are met): Eat an Ideal Protein Breakfast (products you need to buy form the company), an Ideal Protein Lunch with two cups of select veggies*, your own dinner that incorporates an eight-ounce portion of real protein (including fish, seafood, beef, poultry, pork, veal, eggs, or tofu) with two cups of select veggies (including bell peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, kale, asparagus, and spinach), and an Ideal Protein Snack. There are also vitamin supplements.
Phase 2 (2 weeks): Same as above but now you can eat your own lunch consisting of a seven-ounce portion of real protein and two cups of select veggies. Dinner is the same as lunch.
Phase 3 (2 weeks): Lunch and dinner are the same as in Phase 2, but breakfast now consists of fruit (no more than 20 grams of carbs), grains (no more than 30g of carbs), and dairy (no more than 120 calories) to make a 400- to 500-calorie breakfast. This phase slowly increases your calorie intake to a maintenance level.
Phase 4 (for life): This phase teaches you how to balance carbs with proteins and fats in your daily diet to ensure you don't regain the weight back.
*Off-limit vegetables: artichoke, avocado, beets, carrots, chick peas, corn, olives, parsnips, peas, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet corn, squash, yams
What to Expect
Since you're dramatically changing how you eat, about 30 percent of Ideal Protein dieters can expect all the symptoms that go along with feeling hungry including headaches and fatigue, as well as constipation and possible nausea. By the end of the first week, most people lose three to seven pounds (mostly water weight), but seeing results can be the inspiration needed to keep with the plan, and in the following weeks, you'll lose fat. It can also help people lower their cholesterol and blood pressure.
What About Exercise?
When you exercise, glucose levels increase leading to gluconeogenesis — synthesizing glucose from noncarbohydrate sources, mainly from your muscles. To prevent muscle loss, exercise in the first three weeks is not recommended, unless it's light exercise (1/3 to 1/2 of your normal intensity). After three weeks, you can include exercise, but be sure to stay well-hydrated.
As you can see, this diet is pretty precise, which can be be seen as either welcoming or too restrictive, based on your personality. Since you have to purchase Ideal Protein products, this program can be pretty costly (about $100 a week) for Phase 1. If you do a little research online, you'll find that there are ways you can substitute their products for cheaper ones, but for those set on losing weight, they'd rather not stray from the plan. There are gluten-free meal and snack options available, but if you're a vegan, this diet probably isn't for you. It's definitely worth looking into if other diet plans haven't worked for you in the past.